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Makwala eyes Bolt’s throne

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Makwala eyes Bolt's throne
THE NEW BOLT: Isaac Makwala

‘Bad Man’ to use SA Grand Prix to gauge his readiness for the Gold Coast

With a little over a month remaining before the start of the XXI Commonwealth Games in Australia, local sprinter Isaac Makwala is yet to make a decision on whether he’ll compete in the 200m at the Gold Coast meet.

Although he’s already being touted by the international media as a Gold medal candidate and a possible heir to the retired Usain Bolt’s throne, Makwala seems reluctant to lay claim to the vacant seat.

“I’m currently focusing on the Grand Prix meet in South Africa,” the 400m specialist explained in an interview.

It could be that the 2017 IAAF Diamond league 400m winner does not want to get the country’s hopes up.

The ‘Bad Man’, as he’s popularly known, has received so much goodwill for the many years he’s been racing.

Sadly, despite his obvious talent, which is matched by an equally strong desire and impressive temperament, the Tutume native has so often been the ‘nearly-man’ at international level, failing to fully fulfill his potential on the biggest stage.

Despite his reluctance to admit as much, Makwala has the ability to dominate his second favourite event – he prefers the 400m – for at least another season.

Makwala was the fastest man on the planet over 200m last year, recording a personal best and world lead time of 19.77 in a meet at Madrid on the 14 July.

The Bad Man made history in the Spanish capital on that famous Friday night. By clocking an explosive 43.92 in the 400m, he became the first (and to date only) man to run sub 20 and then sub 40 seconds in the 200m and 400m on the same day.

It was against this backdrop that Makwala, in the form of his life, arrived in a rainy London the following month for the World Championships.

However, the fates conspired against the runner and he would end up leaving England empty-handed.

A suspected norovirus infection meant that Makwala, despite insisting he was fit to race, was banned from running in the 400m. He nearly missed the 200m too but, following mounting media pressure to let him run, was given a late reprieve.

After a stunning solo performance against the clock backed up by a strong semi-final run, with the whole world behind him, fatigue took its toll in the final and Makwala finished a disappointing sixth.

The race was won by Turkish sprinter Ramil Guliyev in 20.09 – a time that Makwala had smashed just a few weeks earlier.

The 32-year-old will now be looking to put that disappointment behind him on his first visit to Queensland. Indeed, he has unfinished business at the Commonwealth Games, having failed to qualify for the 400m final at Glasgow in 2014.

“I last competed last year in Europe and I have to gauge myself first before I can even talk about a medal in Australia or taking Bolt’s throne,” responded Makwala in an interview with Voice Sport.

The 2012 and 2014 400m Africa Champion and 2015 All Africa Games 400m Gold medallist says he’s looking forward to the Athletix Grand Prix meet in Roodepoort, Johannesburg at the start of March.

“This competition offers me a great opportunity to test myself against the best before the games in April,” he said.

The South African event, which starts next Thursday (1st of March), boasts a loaded line-up that will include world 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana, World Junior 300m record holder Clarence Munyai, America’s World Junior champion in the 200m (2014) Trentavis Friday and his training partner Justin Walker as well as South Africa’s World Youth champion in the 200m, Retshidisitswe Mlenga.

“From this meet and based on my results and time, I’ll then decide what category will be suitable for me in Australia,” he said.

“Look the international media use times posted last year to make probabilities. They are not wrong to tout me as a possible gold medal winner, because I was ranked first in 2017, but what is important for me right now is to be in the right shape for SA Grand Prix,” added an extremely focused Makwala.

The SA Grand Prix has attracted some of the biggest names in the world of athletics including current 100m World Champion and veteran American sprinter Justin Gatlin.

However, South African superstar Wayde van Niekerk is carrying a niggle and is not expected to compete.